The Brides of Rollrock Island

The Brides of Rollrock Island
Margo Lanagan
Reviewed by Nicola Manning
David Fickling Books
Thu, 02/02/2012

First published in 2009 as a novella, and now lovingly reworked into a full length novel, The Brides of Rollrock Island tells the tale of the lonely isle of Rollrock and its repugnant sea-witch Misskaella.

After a wild erotic encounter, Misskaella discovers that she has the power to bring forth humans from the herds of seals lining Rollrock’s beaches. Lanagan follows the story of the simple fishermen of the island, and their obsession with taking the selkies Misskaella conjures as their wives. Eventually the sea-wives start to pine for their ocean home, and the task of freeing them from their crushing sadness weighs heavily upon their children.

Lanagan uses a quaint episodic format to tell this grandiose tale, boldly addressing first the story of Misskaella herself before arching further out, depicting the lives of the islanders who have been touched by the use of her terrifying powers. Each thread adds extra depth to the story, moving the timeline forward with perfect dramatic pace.
The Brides of Rollrock Island is written beautifully with great confidence and vigour, cleverly charting both the social and the emotional impact of the bewitching of the Rollrock men. Lanagan’s masterful storytelling will both warm your heart and tug at its strings; the inevitable and tragic fates of the selkies, the Rollrock men and their children will leave you fighting back the tears right down to the last page.

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